Thread Principal Tracy Shaw reflects on recent powerful fundraising efforts of the next generation
Thread Principals Tracy Shaw and Loree Lipstein join thousands in on the National Mall in Washington, DC to #MarchForOurLives. Along with finding inspiration and hope in show of support on an issue we both feel passionate about, we had a vision for the bright future of fundraising as these passionate youth inspired millions of donations in just days.
It’s Valentine’s Day 2018 and my heart is breaking. I’m at my computer, it’s the early afternoon and my social media feeds begins to flood with the horrible news: another school shooting and mass murder, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, FL. Seventeen lives have been lost.
Even though I am saddened and shocked, I brace myself for the onslaught of talking heads and commentators from every side discussing ad nauseum the details of who, what, why, when, where and how. I make a concerted effort to turn off the emotion I feel about the divide that we are constantly feeling in our country.
This time, though, something different happens. The students at MSD are not just shocked and sad; they are angry, they want change and they are organizing. Their vigils for victims are rallies for change. Within a week, they have traveled to their state capitol demanding action and within two weeks, they have lit a wildfire among the youth in our country with a call to March for Our Lives and a rallying cry of #NeverAgain.
I’m a fundraiser. It’s what I’ve been doing for almost 20 years. In times like these, I am affected to my core as a human being, but I am also intrigued and curious about the philanthropic side of these movements. I begin checking the GoFundMe account for the March for Our Lives, started by Cameron Kasky, a MSD student. On a Tuesday night, I find myself refreshing my browser every 15 minutes or so and am amazed at the outpouring of support; $8,000 more, $12,000 more, $20,000 more and on and on. For days it grows and grows.
A few days into the planning of the March for Our Lives, George Clooney and his wife Amal pledge $500,000 in support of the rally. Oprah, Steven Speilberg, and the Katzenbergs follow suit. Marc Benioff, founder, and CEO of Salesforce.com pledges $1 million to support the march. From my rough calculations, as of this blog posting, this movement has motivated over 80,000 donors to give and sparked more than $13 million in charitable gifts to support the victims’ funds, the March for Our Lives rallies across the country, and to further the conversations that will address the multi-faceted and complicated issues surrounding these types of tragedies.
Coincidentally, during these same weeks in late February and early March one of our Thread partners was experiencing a similar boon due to a group of young people’s fundraising efforts. On March 3, 2018, the National Capital Area Chapter of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society celebrated the astounding success of its Student of the Year campaign here in the Washington, DC area. 32 student-led teams raised $2.25 million for blood cancer research in just 7 weeks.
These young people have grown up in a world where philanthropy is widely accepted and practiced. They not only see themselves as givers, they willingly put themselves in the fundraising role and have become the askers.
These young people and their peers are the future of philanthropy in our country. Teams of teenagers are leading the way and those of us who are fundraisers and organizers should take heart and know that the next generation of development professionals and grassroots community organizers are already learning how to be successful. Their schooling has already begun and from early indicators, they are amazing.
Delaney Tarr, a senior at MSD, summed up the basic principles of their success during her passionate speech on February 21, to lawmakers in Tallahassee, FL. She said:
“This movement, created by students, led by students, is based on emotion. It is based on passion and it is based on pain. Our biggest flaws—our tendency to be a bit too aggressive, our tendency to lash out, things that you expect from a normal teenager—these are our strengths. The only reason that we’ve gotten so far is that we are not afraid…we have nothing to lose.”
In late March I am honored to hear Delaney speak again from the stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people at the #MarchForOurLives in Washington, DC. Reading her words and listening to her speak ignites a spark in me. At the heart of successful fundraising and organizing is passion, sincerity, emotion and fearless intent to do good. As a development professional, I strive to reconnect with those elements on a regular basis and invite that flame to grow and spread throughout my work each day. I am so grateful for this renewed enthusiasm and hope the next generation brings!